Bell ‘warns’ regulator not to force fibre sharing

27 Nov 2014

This week during Canada’s public hearing on the review of wholesale wireline services, Bell Canada has argued vociferously against mandating wholesale access to fibre broadband access networks operated by incumbent large wireline telcos such as itself, subsidiary Bell Aliant and western Canada-based Telus. At the hearing run by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Bell claimed that investment in nationwide high speed infrastructure development would suffer if the large incumbents were forced to give smaller providers access to their direct fibre access networks, and instead urged the regulator to allow market forces to drive competition. Canada’s Metro News quotes Bell executive vice president Mirko Bibic speaking at the hearing on Wednesday, issuing an apparent warning: ‘If there are rules in place that make building [networks] in the first place unprofitable, we will not build to a community … The consumer will suffer from that, because they’ll have the choice of only one high speed network, which is the cable network, or none at all.’ However, the Canadian Network Operators Consortium, representing independent ISPs, dismissed the executive’s argument at the hearing, countering that large telcos such as Bell and Telus would have to continue investing in last-mile fibre to compete with cablecos such as Rogers, Shaw, Videotron and Cogeco. Chris Tacit, the consortium’s legal counsel, put it this way: ‘They have a natural incentive to build wherever there is a cable carrier because otherwise the cable carrier will eat their lunch.’ Also quoted in Metro News, Primus Canada – reportedly the country’s largest independent ISP – called on the CRTC to regulate the entire wholesale internet market, including residential direct fibre last-mile connections, to ‘disrupt the broadband duopoly’: ‘We do not believe that a marketplace of two incumbents [Bell and Telus] is good enough for Canadian consumers,’ stated Primus CEO Michael Nowlan at the hearing on Tuesday. The independent companies’ views stood in stark contrast to Bell’s Bibic, who declared: ‘None of the evidence supports mandating access to our fibre-to-the-home [FTTH] networks now … So, today, don’t mandate access. If [the CRTC] feels down the road … three to five years that you want to look at it again to make sure our predictions are correct, look at it again.’